Start your engines!
The Pre' 65 Scottish Two-Day Trial Kinlichleven, nr Fort William Fri 29th and Sat 30th April
“I knew Willie and his family very well. When I first rode the Loch Lomond Two Day in 1975, he took me under his wing on the first day. Willie was known as a fiery character, a man that took no prisoners. He had bright red hair and beard but he genuinely had a heart of gold and encouraged young people to take up the sport. He told me to follow him across the moor, dodging the peat hags and it taught me how to ride quickly. I used to ride my Honda to visit him near Dalkeith and stayed for hours talking trials. My mum would phone his wife Creena and ask if I had left for home.”
Moffat took up the challenge at the end of 2000 but the 2001 Scottish was famously called off in the March due to the foot and mouth outbreak and he spent a few days promoting the trial in Fort William.
“It was very surreal; the committee had absolutely no choice but to cancel the 2001 event. If the outbreak had spread into the deer population in the Highlands the trial would have run the risk of being blamed for it. All the trials followers and riders actually came to Fort William as they had booked accommodation and had no trials to ride anyway. Colin Bullock put on films at the Milton Hotel and had a photo quiz. It was really weird meeting up with folk with no trial being run, the town was actually buzzing. I attended a reception at the Highland Council town house with members of the trials committee. It was really all done to support the local businesses that annually looked to the income from the event, it was important to try to keep that going in some way.”
Moffat had new ideas, the aim of which was to try and improve and modernise the infrastructure of the SSDT, which appeared to be welcomed by the importers and competitors he spoke to but it was not all plain sailing.
“I invested a lot of my own time speaking with the main players in the sport in 2001 and there was a common thread which emerged, the SSDT was popular. It had been resurrected from a slippery slope in 1996 by Willie (Dalling) and Peter Stewart with financial assistance from Hamilton Cables but it still lacked something and the committee seemed content to repeat what they did year after year. I personally didn’t agree with that, I believed the trial needed more promotion and subtle annual changes to keep it fresh, not everyone saw it that
way. Don’t get me wrong, these guys did a massive amount of work taking literally tons of flags over the hills, they were very experienced at putting the event on the ground, they were extremely good at it, but it needed something more happening.”
The 2002 trial went without any real hitch. The event was back after a year’s absence and saw Amos Bilbao take the win on his Montesa 315R, a very popular winner. But for Moffat it was to be his swan-song.
“I went to the post-trial debrief at Stirling the following Wednesday and the atmosphere could be cut with a knife, I sensed a definite mood when I entered the room. It was a well-established post-trial meeting that let everyone have their say, which is perfectly fine in my book but it did get rather personal that evening. It was a far from pleasant experience. With hindsight, I could and perhaps should have, simply walked away that night but I listened to what everyone said and I took the criticisms on board and agreed that I would be less active in some areas. I reckoned the committee simply wanted a scribe, not a mover and shaker type of secretary. Things seemed okay for a few months after that as not much happens until the September following a Six Days, then an unfortunate set of circumstances took us all by surprise. The Army decided to cease their refuelling support and that in itself was sufficient to end the event permanently.”
The SSDT committee was struggling to think of a way forward and pondered the situation for a month. They eventually agreed to go public with an appeal for help from the trials community and motorcycle press.
“I won’t go into the details as it would simply appear to be stirring up the past and opening up old wounds but something happened during the search for an alternative refuelling provider that annoyed some of the committee and I was requested to tender my resignation. I thought about it and capitulated, albeit reluctantly, as I maintained that it was not my doing. I had been brought up never to accept blame for something I didn’t do and I have always owned up to anything I have done wrong. I remained a director for two further years after that as I had purchased shares in the Edinburgh club which is of course a limited company. My main reason for remaining as a director was simple; I was still an enthusiastic supporter of the event and firmly believed that the trial was much bigger than one person. However, the travelling to board meetings in Edinburgh, a round trip of 175 miles, became a chore so I resigned my directorship in 2003.”
Undaunted, John took up another challenge and position, a co-opted member of the Scottish ACU trials committee in late 2002.
“Ayrshire delegate Jimmy McMeechan had taken ill and the Chairman, Johnny Davies, asked if I would like to be co-opted onto the SACU trials committee. I said I’d think about it. I ran it past my mum to hear what she thought. My dad had died in late 1997 and she literally pleaded with me not to go on the SACU. My wife, Jean, had the same view. I was never one for listening to advice so I took up the vacant berth anyway; I felt I had something to benefit the sport in general. I quickly became Vice- chairman to Johnny Davies, a great enthusiast and really enjoyed stewarding events, speaking to the riders and officials alike.
“Johnny, who was a former Scottish Scrambles champion, was my mentor; he taught me a hell of a lot about the sport’s politics and at times was a calming influence. I used to deliberately arrange my sales calls to be able to pop in and see him on my way home, regularly arriving home at two in the morning after a right good natter with Johnny, brilliant times.”
When Johnny Davies died in 2007 John Moffat took over as SACU Trials Chairman and became a director of the SACU.
“That was probably the worst thing I ever did going on the SACU board, my mum was bang on the money there. The company as I saw it was rapidly losing money, seriously overstaffed, badly managed and inefficient. I felt it had lost contact with not only the competitors but also their member clubs. The organisation was not seen to be in touch with the sports grass roots. In my opinion it was being run no better than an average motorcycle club but with bigger bills to pay. I made myself very unpopular with the old guard as I knew what needed to be done. It didn’t go down well, I was too outspoken for them. It was like banging your head against a brick wall all the time.
“There was some support from the then motocross chairman and the road-race chairman and Robbie Allan had come back on the scene but when we brought in Sandy Mack as General Secretary to try and turn things around, it all just erupted. There were egos getting in the way at every meeting and it just went from bad to worse.
“I did my bit at the Championship presentation of awards in 2011, went home and wrote my resignation that night. I was totally fed up with all the back-biting, back-stabbing and I asked myself why I was even bothering. The best action for me was to walk away and keep walking. From then on my motto has been: what is spoken behind my back is none of my business!”
While John has had his share of unfortunate incidents in the sport, he wouldn’t change anything. Over the years he has accepted invitations to commentate, interview sports personalities at motorcycle shows and guest presented on Nevis Radio during the Six Days and hosted numerous presentations of awards evenings.
As for competing, he still gets out on a Montesa 4RT and has gathered a few Bultacos to ride when the opportunity and time permits.
“I still heave a big bike out occasionally, I have a real nice 1964 short-stroke AJS 16C that I use on the road, plus I have both my father’s restored AJS and Matchless trials machines. Those are the bikes that I love to hear, that takes me back to listening to the chuff-chuff-chuff of a big single four-stroke.”
He knows most, if not all, of the trials motorcycle and accessory importers in the UK and further afield.
“I’ve met a lot of great people and real characters in the sport, not just trials riders, but all sorts. I suppose I’m too much my own man, I don’t suffer fools gladly and unprofessional attitudes don’t rest easy with me. My old man and I were similar in that regard. I become frustrated with committees lack of vision and the inability to recognise that people want things to progress and improve. I’ve never considered myself a renegade or maverick but I’ve never been comfortable with accepting second best in anything I attempt. I always try to see the other person’s point of view; that is only reasonable and fair. In short, I love the sport of motorcycling and only want the best for it. I suppose you could call me an enthusiast and leave it at that.”
2014 Scott: John mixes it with famous machinery
2013 Pre-65 SSD T: John’s son David rode the family owned AJS as featured in the image from the 1953 ‘Scottish’.
2014 SSDT: Enjoying a chat with George Sartin the founder of Talon Engineering. George is a regular visitor to the SSDT.
2014 March: It’s not just trials that John enjoys as here he is seen interviewing ‘Fast Freddie Spencer’.
2014 SSDT: Everyone knows John and enjoys sharing the fun at the SSDT. He is seen here with Manel Jane the Vertigo boss.
2014 Alvie Two Day: Riding close to his home in the Highlands on his Bultaco, John has been very instrumental in the excellent reputation this event now has.
2014 Scott Trial Re-union Dinner: Mixing with the best: Left to Right: Arthur Lampkin, Martin Lampkin, Rob Edwards, Alan Lampkin, Johnny Brittain all Scott Trial winners. At the back on the left are David Wood and John Moffat.
2014 Scott: Unknown to James Dabill he has just won the 100th Scott trial, John captures the moment.